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It held its breath as we trod its sacred ground ...
The Klein Karoo

The Klein Karoo Experience


‘The Karoo held its breath as we trod its sacred ground’


In August, Linda Wetton & I, together with two friends, joined a group on an eight-day walk through the Klein Karoo, next to the Groot Swartberg mountain range. 

Our route would take us in a westerly direction from De Rust, a small Klein Karoo town, to Groenfontein, in the district of Oudtshoorn, a journey of 140kms, along farm roads, through fertile valleys and past farmlands.  

On our first morning, we woke to the persistent call of a Klaas’s Cuckoo in the gardens and after breakfast, the ‘Dapper Stappers’ (as the locals call all who do this walk), climbed onto donkey carts and rode, rather ceremoniously (all the locals came out to wave at us), to the start of our first day’s walk.  The Donkey Cart Project, which was initiated last year by three of De Rust’s residents, was created for the wellbeing of the local donkeys, whose owners are given the opportunity to earn a sustainable income through transporting tourists. 

To describe each day’s experiences and discoveries would fill a book, but here are some of the highlights –

·         Cold bubbling streams to soak our hot feet along the way

·         The constant ‘companionship’ of the Swartberg mountain range

·         Ostriches running to the fence to ‘greet’ us

·         Giant aloes – red and orange, like mini sunsets

·         ‘Klapperbossies’ – pink and pale green (not yet ready to ‘klap’)

·         Deserted homesteads whispering memories of families long since gone

·         Karoo farmers, welcoming us as if we were family and feeding us as if we had walked from Cape to Cairo

·         A prayer circle in Van Zyl’s Chamber at the Cango Caves, followed by a heart-stopping rendition of ‘Ave Maria’, sung by a young local girl

·         A walk along a medicinal plant route at the back of the Caves with our guide JB, a Rastafarian (sans dreadlocks)

·         Bushman paintings of ‘Mystical Mermaids’

·         Restored farmhouses with cosy fires

·         A day’s walk through the well stocked Swartberg Private Game Park

·         A lone Eland, silhouetted against the sky, surveying his ‘kingdom’

·         The majestic Manneberg, silver and stately, rising from the valley

·         Basie & Mandi Strydom’s Kruisrivier B&B, a farm occupied by 8 successive generations of the Strydom family

·         Mandi’s home-made selection of Mampoer (the less said about this, the better!)

·         Pupils of the Kruisrivier Primary School standing on the steps of their one-roomed school, shyly singing for us

·         A 5-Star Breakfast in Tienie Bekker’s beautiful garden, overlooking the mountains – a picture-postcard setting

·         The Groenfontein Mission Station children entertaining us with their stories and songs

·         The strong comradeship that developed on this unique journey

And, last but not least,

·         The opportunity to experience the vastness, the pristine beauty and the diversity of the Klein Karoo landscape, which left us with a deep inner peace


Denise Lawson